The Taliban Execution: What Happens When a Nation Fails
Three shots ring out in close succession, and the woman’s shawl-shrouded body slumps to the ground. Whoops, cheers and praise to Allah follow another four shots into her inert form. The latest video footage to come out of Afghanistan purports to show the execution of an allegedly adulterous woman at the hands of the Taliban. The video, filmed last month on a mobile phone and obtained by Reuters, is shocking. But even more atrocious is the fact that such incidents are on the rise in Afghanistan, from Taliban executions to gruesome punishments like cutting off noses and ears, whippings and the forced amputations of hands for accusations of theft. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission notes that cases of extreme violence against women are on the rise—some are Taliban inflicted, but many are simply eruptions of ancient forms of tribal justice unchecked by Afghan society and government. The Taliban, after all, based their extreme edicts not just on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law, but upon tribal traditions that predate Islam. This latest video, as many have pointed out, supposedly presages the fate of Afghanistan’s women when foreign troops pull out over the next two and a half years. But the fact that such punishments continue to be meted out even with some 100,000 foreign troops still on the ground in Afghanistan is an indication that when it comes to women’s rights at least, our 11-year experiment in nation building has come to very little. And that has less to do with our commitment to women as it does to our weak support for education across the board.
Sure, more than three million Afghan girls are in school today, more than ever before in the history of Afghanistan, and up from nearly zero in 2000. But few of those girls go on to secondary school, and those that do are usually in the urban areas. Rural Afghanistan, as evinced by the video, has changed little. That execution took place in Shinwari district, about an hour’s drive from the paved roads and glass-fronted office blocks of Kabul, but centuries away in terms of development.